India, as per a news report, will soon be announcing a target for cutting greenhouse gas emission, including an “aspirational” year of peak emissions. With it, we would have set a template for other developing nations on forward-looking climate change policy even though the world expects the latter to prioritise growth, key to which is hydrocarbon-fuelled economic activity. That aside, the most significant import of the announcement is for India’s energy sector.
An emission reduction goal would necessitate increasing non-conventional and sustainable energy capacities given the dependence on hydrocarbon fuels, especially coal, has to be drastically lessened. To this end, the policy environment has to be encouraging of alternative energy sources like solar, nuclear and wind. At the moment, non-hydrocarbon-based power plants (nuclear, hydel and renewables, which includes solar, wind, small hydel, biomass and urban and industrial waste) account for only 30.5% of the total installed electricity capacity in India, as per the August report of the Central Electricity Authority. Given the NDA government’s Make-in-India and urbanising India
(100 smart cities) objectives will only drive up the country’s power needs, it is only prudent that it is considering a bundling of solar energy and energy efficiency targets with the emissions target. With solar generation already high on prime minister Narendra Modi’s agenda, it shouldn’t be too difficult to show that the development-environment trade-off can have lesser opportunity costs.